Silicon Fen has been the electronics PR man’s candy shop for as long as I can remember, but it looks like Cambridge could soon have a new challenger gunning for its crown as one of the most important technology centres in Europe…. and that place is…. Sheffield.
Yes that’s right. I said Sheffield. The place made famous for steel production, having a football team named after a day of the week (that’s Wednesday for those not in the know) and Sean Bean.
Earlier this month Electronics Weekly reported data compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) which showed that the University of Sheffield has now overtaken the University of Cambridge for engineering research income by almost 10 percent.
This is pretty significant.
Cambridge University and its superb track record of engineering research, technological discoveries and inventions was the unquestionable driver behind the formation of Silicon Fen. Many of the successful companies to emerge from the area started as Cambridge University spin-offs or were started by its graduates and academic staff. The process, known as The Cambridge Phenomenon, has been going on in earnest since the1960s and given rise to the likes of Acorn Computers, ARM, CSR, Plextek, TEAM Consulting, TTP, Sagentia and Cambridge Consultants to name just a few.
Clearly HESA’s data is an indication of the world class nature of the University of Sheffield. The University’s own press release about the data claims that it is one of the largest providers of engineering research and education in the UK operating across all the main engineering disciplines and claiming world-leading capability in areas as diverse as semiconductors and pharmaceuticals.
But what really fuelled Silicon Fen’s rise wasn’t just a world class university, it was also helped by its highly networked community and innovative financing. As well as Silicon Fen this model seems to be working well for other UK innovation hubs e.g. the likes of Silicon Roundabout (Shoreditch) and Silicon Southwest (Bristol/Bath).
If Sheffield, and the talent coming out of the University in years to come, get it right and follow the successful Silicon Fen model, I predict it won’t be too many years before every electronics PR in the UK will be tootling up the M1 towards Sheffield, the epicentre of the world renowned Silicon Wednesday, rather than the usual jaunt along the M11.
You heard it here first!
(Photo courtesy of andrewbasterfield).